NANTICOKE, January 10, 2016 — Senator John T. Yudichak (D-Carbon/Luzerne) announced today that Wilkes University will receive $1 million from the Transportation Alternative Program (“TAP”) administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (“PennDOT”). The grant funds will be used to upgrade sidewalks, street lighting, and other infrastructure improvements along South Main Street–between South and Northampton Streets– in the city of Wilkes-Barre.
“This is a prime example of how we can harness colleges and universities to invest in our communities,” said Senator Yudichak, “With these grant funds, Wilkes University will begin the next phase of a streetscape project that has revitalized downtown Wilkes-Barre into an economic hub and a thriving residential community for the city and Luzerne County.” Senator Yudichak commended Wilkes’ president, Dr. Pat Leahy, and his staff for their efforts to secure this funding. He also noted that the Commonwealth has invested approximately $13 million for streetscape enhancements in Wilkes-Barre in the last decade.
Wilkes University will contribute $300,000 to the project in addition to the TAP grant. In addition to new sidewalks and lighting, the new TAP project includes curb ramps, the planting of trees and other improvements that will not only enhance the University’s campus, but encourage future business development on South Main Street. The project extends work promoting pedestrian safety already undertaken by Wilkes on West South and South Franklin streets. By the time the project is completed, the University will have invested more than $1 million in infrastructure improvements around its campus. Wilkes President Patrick F. Leahy said the investment reflects the University’s commitment to the community.
“This project makes visible Wilkes ongoing commitment to the community surrounding our campus,” Leahy said. “We are pleased to be in a position to pay the match required for a TAP grant, allowing Wilkes to make investments in our city and county where we can make the most impact.”
“This is an exciting time to be a student, resident, worker, or business owner in downtown Wilkes-Barre,” said State Representative Eddie Day Pashinski (D-121st District). “At a time when local governments are fighting to maintain basic services, Wilkes University is an example of an institution that has stepped-up its financial commitment to the city and its residents.”
In addition to the streetscape improvements, Wilkes University continues making enhancements to its urban campus. The improvements include the campus Gateway opened on South Main Street in fall 2015 and in 2017 the University will complete renovations to 141 South Main Street to house the Karambelas Media Center and a new home for the Sordoni Art Gallery. In addition, work on the South Campus Gateway project providing improvements to the campus on West South Street near the Henry Student Center also will begin this year.
City officials welcomed the new investment in the heart of the city. “With this funding secured in the downtown, the city can continue to expand opportunities into other neighborhoods of the city so that the resurgence of the downtown will spread to every part of Wilkes-Barre,” said Mayor Tony George.
“Pennsylvania has some difficult financial choices in the coming months, but we cannot simply cut our way to a balanced budget.” said Senator Yudichak. “Instead, we have a responsibility to financially support projects that will improve the local economy and help us attract and retain a new generation of students to Luzerne County.”